McLane hits ground running with Armstrong

Most people are afforded some time to get acquainted in a new job.

Most people are afforded some time to get acquainted in a new job.

Not Katherine McLane. Last month, only a couple hours into her new role as director of communications for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF), she found herself in Washington preparing her new boss for an appearance on Meet the Press.

It wasn't the first time McLane had been through the frantic preparation a date with Tim Russert ignites - she had been there before with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The added pressure of starting a new job, however, made the day an interesting one.

McLane landed in time to prep Armstrong on key talking points to stress during the interview. She notes, though, that he is so articulate when it comes to cancer that the session was likely just as helpful for her as it was for the seven-time Tour de France winner.

"I think every [PR pro's] sweatiest moment is seeing your boss do Meet the Press," McLane admits. "To have that be your first outing with a new boss is very interesting and a little nerve-wracking, but I was impressed with Lance's ability to focus and deliver a clear message. He speaks from the heart. His message is clearly very personal."

Armstrong followed the taping with an appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews, crossing the capitol for a busy day concentrated on raising awareness for the upcoming presidential cancer forum the LAF was hosting, which was to be aired nationally on MSNBC.

There wasn't much time for McLane to relax and get oriented after the frantic Friday, either. The Meet the Press interview aired Sunday morning and by Monday morning, Democratic presidential candidates arrived in Cedar Rapids, IA, for the forum.

"Between our media tour on Friday in Washington and the event itself, we spent time running through the show, working with Matthews, sort of getting a game plan finalized about the areas we wanted to focus on, and reviewing the homework we had done on candidates' records," McLane recalls. "The bulk of the work had already been done. This was more a matter of tightening things up."

Indeed, once the candidates had taken the stage, there isn't much the communications team could do aside from hope it all went smoothly and national media outlets ran with the story.

"We were backstage watching our boss, Matthews, and the candidates," McLane says. "It was a live show, so once they're out there, they're out there. So we were basically all backstage huddled around a television."

On Tuesday, the Republicans weighed in on issues surrounding cancer and how they might treat cancer research as president. And following the participation of both parties, the team set out to get as much coverage as possible for the two forums, issuing a statement detailing the promises candidates had made during the event.

"We were tremendously pleased with the ripple effect, not only from the candidates' promises, but from the coverage," McLane says. "It was national news. We're very proud that we've been able to achieve the goal of putting cancer front and center in the conversation that's going on between candidates and voters right now."

Now that she's finally able to come up for air, McLane says that while the event was a huge success, there's a long way to go. With some candidates skipping the event, she said the LAF will look to solicit statements from those they haven't heard from. She pointed out that Barack Obama, who couldn't make the event because of a scheduling conflict, released a statement the day of the forum detailing the focus he'd put on cancer research.

The two days were central to the LAF's communications strategy. Getting several candidates to promise an increase in cancer research if elected was seen as a big step forward for the organization.

Still, McLane's schedule won't slow down too much. Election Day is but 16 months away.


Katherine McLane

August 2007-present
Comms director, Lance Armstrong Foundation

July 2006-August 2007
Press secretary, US Department of Education

November 2003-July 2006
Deputy communications director (Nov. 2003-April 2005), then deputy press Secretary, Office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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